Dr Andreas Lengeling, animal research & welfare officer, at the Max-Planck-Society, answered questions in Phys.Org on why it is necessary for animals to be bred but not used, the role of genetic alteration, and how the numbers of surplus animals could be reduced in future years.
Among the ways that Dr Lengeling thinks new technologies could help with reducing surpluses are cryopreservation of embryos and in vitro fertilisation, while CRISPR/Cas9 technology (genetic editing) will allow for new genetic changes in animals to be achieved quicker and more precisely.
Dr Lengeling also thought that greater international co-operation and the exchange of technology could help greatly.
For instance, through institutions such as the European Mouse Mutant Archive (EMMA), where genetically changed lines of mice are collected and archived in bio-archives through cryopreservation and provided to scientists, for research purposes, on request.
The number of animals that were bred but not used in experiments in 2017, across the EU, was 12,597,816.
Asked about the role of animal studies in research generally, he said: “A lot of basic research is conducted at the Max Planck Institutes. If we want to abandon animal research altogether, we would automatically sacrifice future findings that may revolutionise our knowledge of basic functions of organic and biological systems.”